Recipe

Koji Turkey

by Tim Chin

Thanksgiving turkey can be an exercise in culinary futility. Cooking one for the holiday meal too often results in a disappointing centerpiece with anemic skin and bland, dry, overcooked meat. But I knew I could do better. After all, I was armed with koji.

After learning about the great tenderizing and radical flavor-enhancing properties of shio koji, I wanted to put them to use once again. Shio koji is a traditional use of koji, the ancient mold that gives us soy sauce, miso, fermented bean paste, and sake. It’s made by combining rice koji, salt, and water and letting the mixture ferment for a week. You can make it at home or buy it online. The enzymes present in koji—and in shio koji—help break down the proteins in meat, causing turkey, for example, to retain juices and remain moist. These enzymes also add a deeply savory, umami-forward flavor.

I decided to blend the shio koji with water and additional salt to make a brine, which added water and seasoning to the turkey along with koji’s meat-enhancing properties. I even lacquered the skin at the end of cooking with a coat of shio koji–spiked butter to give a burnished appearance and add even more savory-sweet flavor. For good measure, I roasted some vegetables underneath the turkey, where they could catch all those amazing koji-fied drippings.  

Yield
Serves 10 to 12
KojiTurkey_016.jpg
Ingredients
575 g shio koji
3785 g water
300 g sugar
273 g plus 3 g kosher salt, divided
(2700- to 3100-gram) bone-in turkey breast
(650- to 750-gram) turkey leg quarters
900 g small red potatoes, quartered
450 g carrots (about 6 medium), peeled and sliced on bias 2 inches thick
300 g shallots (about 10 medium), peeled and halved
28 g plus 14 g vegetable oil, divided
  pepper
28 g thyme sprigs
43 g unsalted butter, melted
2 cups shio koji
4 quarts water
1½ cups (10½ ounces) sugar
1½ cups plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1  (6- to 7-pound) bone-in turkey breast
2  (1½- to 1¾-pound) turkey leg quarters
2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
1 pound carrots (about 6 medium), peeled and sliced on bias 2 inches thick
10  shallots, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
  pepper
1 bunch thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Essential Equipment
Instructions
    • 575 g shio koji 
    • 3785 g water 
    • 300 g sugar 
    • 273 g kosher salt 
    • 1 (2700- to 3100-gram) bone-in turkey breast 
    • 2 (650- to 750-gram) turkey leg quarters
    Process shio koji in blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. Reserve 75 grams blended shio koji in airtight container in refrigerator. Transfer remaining blended shio koji to large stockpot or large plastic container and whisk in water, sugar, and salt until dissolved. Add turkey parts to brine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 16 hours. 
  1. Remove turkey parts from brine and pat dry with paper towels; set aside at room temperature. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  
    • 900 g small red potatoes, quartered 
    • 450 g carrots (about 6 medium), peeled and sliced on bias 2 inches thick 
    • 300 g shallots (about 10 medium), peeled and halved 
    • 75 g reserved shio koji 
    • 28 g vegetable oil 
    • 3 g kosher salt 
    • Pepper 
    • 28 g thyme sprigs 
    • 43 g unsalted butter, melted 
    Toss potatoes, carrots, shallots, 50 grams shio koji, oil, and salt in large bowl to combine. Season with pepper. Arrange vegetables on prepared sheet and top with wire rack. Arrange thyme sprigs in single layer on rack. Whisk melted butter and remaining 25 grams shio koji until combined; set aside.  
    • 14 g vegetable oil 
    • Pepper
    Place turkey parts on prepared rack, skin side up, and brush skin with oil. Season with pepper and cover loosely with foil. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast for 25 minutes longer. Rotate sheet, brush skin with shio koji–butter mixture, and roast until breast registers 155 degrees F/68 degrees C and thighs register 170 degrees F/77 degrees C, 25 to 45 minutes, removing pieces as they come to temperature.
  2. Transfer turkey to carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C. Remove rack and continue to roast vegetables until vegetables are tender and potatoes are spotty brown, about 30 minutes longer, stirring halfway through. Transfer vegetables to serving bowl. Carve turkey and transfer to serving platter. Serve.
Instructions
    • 2 cups shio koji 
    • 4 quarts water 
    • 1½ cups (10½ ounces) sugar 
    • 1½ cups kosher salt 
    • 1 (6- to 7-pound) bone-in turkey breast 
    • 2 (1½- to 1¾-pound) turkey leg quarters
    Process shio koji in blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. Reserve 3 tablespoons blended shio koji in airtight container in refrigerator. Transfer remaining blended shio koji to large stockpot or large plastic container and whisk in water, sugar, and salt until dissolved. Add turkey parts to brine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 16 hours. 
  1. Remove turkey parts from brine and pat dry with paper towels; set aside at room temperature. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  
    • 2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered 
    • 1 pound carrots (about 6 medium), peeled and sliced on bias 2 inches thick 
    • 10 shallots, peeled and halved 
    • 3 tablespoons reserved shio koji 
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
    • Pepper 
    • 1 bunch thyme sprigs 
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    Toss potatoes, carrots, shallots, 2 tablespoons shio koji, oil, and salt in large bowl to combine. Season with pepper. Arrange vegetables on prepared sheet and top with wire rack. Arrange thyme sprigs in single layer on rack. Whisk melted butter and remaining 1 tablespoon shio koji until combined; set aside.  
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
    • Pepper
    Place turkey parts on prepared rack, skin side up, and brush skin with oil. Season with pepper and cover loosely with foil. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast for 25 minutes longer. Rotate sheet, brush skin with shio koji–butter mixture, and roast until breast registers 155 degrees F/68 degrees C and thighs register 170 degrees F/77 degrees C, 25 to 45 minutes, removing pieces as they come to temperature.
  2. Transfer turkey to carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C. Remove rack and continue to roast vegetables until vegetables are tender and potatoes are spotty brown, about 30 minutes longer, stirring halfway through. Transfer vegetables to serving bowl. Carve turkey and transfer to serving platter. Serve.
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